Day 28: Bear!

So What Else Happened?

I saw a bear. So nothing else that happened today really matters.

But I’ll tell you about it anyways.

Yesterday’s Trail Magic

The kegs were still flowing last night at the beer garden part of the tri-fold trail magic at Sam’s Gap when we returned from Asheville at 7:00 pm. About 15 of their clientele appeared to have settled in for the long haul, barely moving when the magicians packed up and left.

Most of them set up their tents in the parking lot, spent the night, and were still there when the kegs were uncorked in the morning. I’m guessing they spent today there too, at least as long as the free beer lasted. I never saw any of them on the trail or at Spivey’s Gap.

More Climbing

Today’s hike was a pretty straightforward long climb up Big Bald (5,504 ft msl, 2,600 ft climb) and then back down into Spivey Gap. I had my climbing Zen back again today, though Gus and I growled at a few of the stairs out of spite.

Just before the summit, we found a cooler along the trail above the Wolf Laurel resort community. We took it as their apology for closing the access road I’d planned to use, and accepted a banana as penance. I offered Gus a corner of a ginger snap cookie, but he refused after giving it a slimy sniff. He did try to fetch it back though, after I tossed the gooey crumb into the brush.

Shortly after that, we passed a blue blaze sign for a “Nature Trail.” Really? Isn’t the whole AT a nature trail? I was curious, but not enough to walk an extra mile to see some “nature.”

Big Bald

The Bald offered great views of the huge luxury homes in the Wolf Laurel Resort, as well as of the surrounding valleys. The bald’s peak lay just below the low cloud ceiling, with wisps of damp mist and fog sweeping across the huge grassy knob. I thought I heard thunder once or twice, but no rain came.

From the peak, we had a mostly downhill walk to Spivey Gap. As we walked off the bald, the AT briefly and blissfully followed an old wagon road. A little less briefly than what I did, however. I suddenly realized I hadn’t seen a white blaze for a while, and had to choose between hiking back uphill to the AT or bushwacking along the contour line until I intercepted the AT again.

After my bushwack path went through a quarter mile of brambles, Gus pushed past me looking disgusted with my woodcraft, and took over route finding until we got back on track. As a reward, I let him run free in the last of the bald’s grassy fields before we returned to the woods.

Bluebird Sees a Bear

As we descended, we encountered some slackpackers heading south. Bluebird saw us and happily called out, “I just saw my first bear!” and told me the story of how it saw them and crashed down the hill into the woods. Soco appeared a minute later, and retold his version. Their hostel was slacking them today and tomorrow into Erwin. More slackpack converts.

Since my path switchbacked directly toward where their bear went, I kept my eyes open. Sure enough, I saw it or its twin a mile later. Bears are such beautiful beasts. This one had a light brown snout and a jet black coat. On all fours, it couldn’t have stood more than three feet high. Not full grown, but not a cub either.

The bear didn’t see us at first, grazing on something behind some trees, but ran off as soon as it did. Gus couldn’t have cared less, or was too tired to care, and just followed me as I filmed as best I could.

Trail Magic #2

When we got to Spivey Gap, Northstar was talking to a couple of young women who had set up some trail magic. We were the only customers until a few hikers wandered in over the next hour. Then Miss Janet showed up and told us we were taking too much space in the parking area. Ironically, her car was taking up several spots and she was the only one to drive up in the two hours we were there. We guessed that the free beer magic back at Sam’s Gap had sucked in most of the potential traffic.

The plant of the day was White Nemophila. The trail was lined with acres of it, spiced with trillium and dwarf larkspur. Sometimes, the White Nemophila was so dense it looked like it snowed. Incredible.

Daily Stats:

  • Start: Sam’s Gap (Mile 319.7)
  • End: Spivey Gap (Mile 333.1)
  • Weather: Overcast, breezy
  • Earworm: Country Road, Take Me Home (grocery store musak yesterday)
  • Meditation: Jer 29:11-13 (reader suggested)
  • Plant of the Day: White Nemophila
  • Best Thing: Bear
  • Worst Thing: Only two trail magics

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Comments 6

  • thetentman : May 8th

    Woo hoo, bears. Enjoy. Wait till you get to NJ and you will see many.


    • Jon : May 8th

      So I hear. I’m two for two as of today though.

  • Debbie Carney : May 8th

    Hahahaha. Nature trail. : )
    So cool to see a bear and not be scared.
    And, that your dog did not go after it.
    Ephesians 6:10-11

    • Jon : May 8th

      Good verse. Thanks!

  • Bluebird : May 8th

    It was nice meeting you and your pup yesterday. Glad you spotted your bear, too. It was a good day!

    • Jon : May 9th

      Hey, Bluebird. Enjoy your slackpacking! See you on the trail.


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